ANALYSIS: In 2018, the West’s top oil and gas producing states reported over 2,800 spills

May 30, 2019

May 30, 2019

DENVER—A new analysis from the Center for Western Priorities found that in 2018, oil and gas companies reported nearly 3,000 drilling-related spills in the Mountain West’s three top producing states. In ColoradoNew Mexico, and Wyoming, companies reported a total of 2,834 spills, releasing 23,409 barrels of crude oil and 174,873 barrels of produced water. Throughout the past year, these spills have amounted to an average 2,694 gallons of crude oil and 17,015 gallons of produced water spilled every day. In 2018, operators reported 596 spills in Colorado, 1,523 in New Mexico, and 715 in Wyoming.

This report is the latest addition to the Center for Western Priorities’ ongoing tracking of oil and gas-related spills in the Mountain West. Some states, including Colorado and New Mexico, make spill information public, while other states, such as Wyoming, provide the information by request. The Center for Western Priorities obtained 2018 data from each of these states and quantified what materials were spilled and which operators were responsible in order to better inform the public on drilling impacts.

“As the Trump administration’s energy-dominance agenda ramps up oil and gas production, our analysis shows the continued impacts of drilling on these Western states,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Policy Director at the Center for Western Priorities. “Oil and gas-related spills have a significant impact on the land, water, and surrounding communities. With thousands of spills reported last year, there is clearly a need to improve safeguards throughout the drilling process.”

Key statistics from the Center for Western Priorities’ analysis:

  • In New Mexico, the number of spills has fluctuated significantly, from 936 spills in 2013 to 1,523 spills last year. This drastic increase, accompanying a boom in drilling activity in the Permian Basin, leaves New Mexico with nearly double the amount of spills of the next highest state, Wyoming.
  • Natural gas leaks in New Mexico released 247 million cubic feet of methane in 2018, a powerful greenhouse gas. That is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 2,892 cars, or burning nearly 15 million pounds of coal.
  • In Colorado, data showed that over 45 percent of spills were within 1,500 feet of a building and over 70 percent were within 5,000 feet of surface water.
  • In Wyoming, spills were dispersed throughout the state, with only three counties not experiencing any spills. Campbell and Converse Counties reported the most spills, with over 100 spills each.
  • While the exact companies differ by state, the top five companies reporting the most spills in each state account for more than 40 percent of all spills.

Learn more: 

The Mountain West’s top energy states saw nearly 3,000 oil and gas-related spills in 2018 [Westwise]
2018 Colorado Spills
2018 New Mexico Spills
2018 Wyoming Spills

For more information, visit To speak with an expert on public lands, contact Aaron Weiss at 720-279-0019 or Sign up for Look West to get daily public lands and energy news sent to your inbox.